Florida Democratic state legislators and prison reform advocates are working to provide short-term solutions to bring cool air to the state’s prisons, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Officials from both parties have acknowledged there’s a problem with extreme heat in the prisons, but have balked at the high cost.
But, in recent weeks, two Jacksonville lawmakers filed identical bills that would make it a requirement to provide some cool air inside dorm units by July 1. Under the measure, each state correctional institution would have to install a portable air conditioner or some sort of “air-cooling system” in each housing unit. “We must make it clear that air conditioning is not a luxury, it’s a basic human right and necessity for human decency,” said State Rep. LaVon Bracy Davis. “By providing air conditioning to our prisons we are not only ensuring the physical comfort of those incarcerated but also creating an environment conducive to rehabilitation and growth.”
Over 75% of state-run correctional housing units, or more than 500 dorms, don’t have air-conditioning. Those that do are usually reserved for the most vulnerable populations inside prison, including the mentally ill, pregnant and geriatric. Equipping Florida correctional institutions with a proper HVAC system could take up to 20 years to complete and would require the state to spend $582 million, according to the auditing firm KPMG, which was hired to create a modernization plan; the final plan is due next month.